LIBBY BULL, Senior Designer Project Manager at G.A Design

Posted in People on 6 April, 2017

Can Faik gets personal in a 5-minutes-with interview with Senior Designer Project Manager, G.A Design, Libby Bull…

Tell me about your role at G.A Design

I am a Senior Designer Project Manager. I am usually working on one or two projects at a time and generally see each project from the initial proposal through to final on-site completion. I’ve been in the design industry just over 12 years, four and a half of them at G.A Design.

I usually work with a team or three to four  colleagues per project, based out of the London office, but mainly work on international projects in partnership with our other offices in Budapest, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are in the early stages of working with the fourth generation family members of the beautiful Hotel Continental in Oslo. We are in full design development mode on the Hilton Amsterdam, the fantastic iconic building from the 1950’s, known for having the famous John Lennon and Yoko ‘peace bed’.  Then finally its full steam ahead on site of the St Regis Shanghai, due for completion in 2017. It’s a real mix of exciting projects!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

At the start of my career I was very lucky to secure a work placement at Molten Brown in retail interior design and branding, this was definitely a highlight. I will never be able to repay Yasuda Avery and Sue King for their yearlong patience and expertise. I can’t stress enough to students hoping to join the design industry just how important these placement programmes are.

Jumping ahead to G.A Design, I would have to say working on the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam. We were invited to work on a series of stunning original Dutch houses the earliest dating back to the 1600’s, with incredible features, in an incredible setting. Early on it became very clear working with the owner, operator, architects and consultants that we were all wanting the same thing, which, if we are totally honest, doesn’t often happen! We worked hard to respect the buildings heritage and integrity, this set the bar high and we were all so proud of the results.

How important is the journey when it comes to designing a new hotel?

In the industry this phrase ‘creating a journey’ comes up a lot for good reason. A guest may not actually remember overall colours, patterns or even whole areas of a hotel, but they will unconsciously remember how a place makes them feel.

A particular colour, texture or smell could all trigger connections with individuals and spark old memories – but to imprint a feeling on a broader community of guests is a tough challenge. By designing the whole picture, be it through a single or series of journeys, it helps to give a place an iconic identity, an entity (not just a place), a story, with more depth and layers.

Whilst travelling in Japan I came across a beautiful term ‘Yugen’. There are obviously different versions on what this term means, but this is the one I came across and which has become my primary approach as a designer and something I try to question in my designs every day;

Yugen: the core of the appreciation of beauty and art. It values the power to evoke, rather that the ability to state directly. The principle of Yugen shows that real beauty exists when, through its suggestiveness, only a few words, or few brush strokes, can suggest what has not been said or shown, and hence awaken many inner thoughts and feelings.

For me if a place as even a moment of ‘Yugen’ – you’ve cracked it!

What is your favourite city?

New York, New York! From my very first visit when I was 13, I’ve held a special connection with the city. Over the years I’ve been back several times and I still manage to find an unexplored quarter – Little Italy being my favourite (so far). The city seems to have the ability to be both fresh and ever-changing, while still manages to maintain it’s roots. Tokyo is a very close second.

What is your favourite hotel?

I can narrow it down to two for you – Upper House, Hong Kong, for its calmness and beautiful detailing, a constant reminder for me not to over- work or complicate my designs or palette. Second is Ett Hem, Stockholm, a hotel full of local character, packed with charm and honesty.

Before that Amsterdam, for a site visit and briefing for my latest project and then Sicily for a family holiday. Which of course has lovely food and beautiful endless winding streets to get lost in but also a surprising array of modern ceramists.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Currently working my way through the ‘Quantico’ soundtrack, but Caro Emerald and The Cure tend to be on constant repeat.

Number of meetings attended each week?

It’s really varies week by week, but I normally have at least 4-5 internal meetings ‘at the white tables’ as we refer to them in the studio, to bash out ideas with the teams and run through project status. The following week could be one meeting after another – clients, consultants and suppliers etc.

Favourite designer?

Too hard to narrow down! But I think Stefanie Brechbuehler, Robert Highsmith and Ryan Mahoney (aka – WORKSTEAD) are doing some very beautiful work.

Favourite drink?

If only water tasted like Mojitos!

One thing you can’t live without?

Without getting too gushy my family and friends! However Netflix is a close 2nd! I travel a lot, be it my daily commute or with work and films are a great passion.

What would be your dream project?

In New York obviously, but any restoration project would be my ideal, the more history woven in and original obstacles to work around the better. But a very large modern Spa Resort in Bali, with plenty of site visits wouldn’t go amiss either.

What do you have lined up for the future?

I recently heard a key-note speaker at a seminar that gave me more drive and passion for design restoration than anyone I’ve I had seen since leaving University. After his speech I managed to catch him at the bar, we spoke for less than an hour but I left knowing I had just met a very special designer, that person was Conrad Smith. I was extremely sad to hear the news of his passing and was moved by his friends and colleagues who spoke about continuing his legacy.

In the near future, I’m very excited about the joining the team at the NEWH (The Network of the Hospitality Industry) it is a collaboration which helps students who are hoping to join the design industry with scholarships, education and business networking. I hope I can play a part in spreading Conrad’s legacy, as I will most definitely be sharing his work and passion for design with all the new people I meet.

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